Are Bigger Tires & Rims Better….? Not Around Here.

After threatening to do so ever since the bicycle tire size drum beat of “bigger is better”  started, I finally put the Velocity Dyad wheelset and 28mm wide Continental Gatorskin tires on our Calfee for one of our local loop rides to see if either I or the lovely Ms. Debbie could detect any significant difference compared to our Velocity Deep-Vs with 25mm Vredestein’s.   I ran the Gatorskins at 100 psi vs. 120 psi that I’ve been using with the Vredestein’s.


The more important dimension for rims is the inside bead-seat diameter which is 14mm for the Deep V (below left) and 19mm for the Dyad rim (below right).  Proportionally, the Dyad w/28mm Gatorskin is actually a better fit than the Deep-V w/25mm Fortezza; a 23mm Fortezza is about ideal for the Deep-V but we stopped using those about 2 years back now.


I’d originally thought that I’d need to change out the True Temper AlphaQ X2 front fork on the Calfee for this little experiment as the forks are only really rated for up to a 25mm tire, but as it turns out there was about 1mm – 2mm of clearance between the tire and fork crown, a good 2mm – 2.5mm at the rear brake bridge and more than enough room with the Campy Record compact caliper brakes.

fronttire reartire

And the verdict?  Well, Debbie didn’t know that I’d changed out the tires and wheels and I’d even made a point of steering the tandem through some sections of broken pavement during the first 10 miles of our ride before asking her, “so, how does the tandem feel?”  As usual, her response was a question, “Why. What did you do to it?”  I told her that’d I’d changed out the tires and wheels with the wheelset from our Performance Triplet just to see how a larger diameter /  higher volume tire might change the feel, handling and performance of our Calfee, which was absolutely true.  After explaining the change her answer was a pretty unequivocal, “I can’t really tell that there’s any difference.”

tirecompareAs for me, I could tell that the 28mm tires at 100 psi definitely gave me a more plush-feeling ride, especially on the sections of broken pavement.  It was noticeably smoother-rolling on several sections of our route, but interestingly enough… while it felt like the tandem was rolling faster on several sections, a quick check of the speedo revealed the tandem was actually moving along a bit slower than usual.  By the end of the ride we were about 5% off our average pace for that particular loop.  As for handling, it definitely held a line quite nicely, but it was not as nimble-feeling in the corners, particularly when the bike was heeled-over for two very tight, greater than 45° intersections.

My take away from this little experiment was that, as I suspected… if we lived and rode on surfaces that were not as smooth as our local roads here in the southeast a larger volume tire would definitely be the first thing I’d adopt to improve the comfort of our ride.  My guess is, if our roads were not as smooth as they are any loss in performance associated with the larger diameter tire would be off-set by the tire’s ability to soak up bumps and save wear and tear on the riders.

Clearly, this is far from being a definitive test and there weren’t nearly as many controls or repeated events to support a more qualified assessment.  But, at least as far as first impressions go, I think we’re good to go with our 25mm tires on Deep-Vs.  However, if our roads ever fall into disrepair or if we head back into the land of never-ending chip-seal, expansion joints, or frost-heave-damaged roads we know exactly what to change first.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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17 Responses to Are Bigger Tires & Rims Better….? Not Around Here.

  1. cbratina says:

    The BQ tire testing indicates that the higher thread count tires generally have lower rolling resistance. So the Conti 4000s 25c is faster in their, and my testing, than the Gatorskin 28c when the same size. We had been using the Conti 4 Season 28c which provided a slightly better ride than the Gatorskin 28c. But when we switched to the Grand Bois Cypres 32c, the comfort was dramatically higher and they roll as fast as the Conti 4000s on most surfaces.

    • TG says:

      Yes, I’ve read the BQ article and, well… guess there’s a reason I’ve been riding on Vredestein tires for nearly 20 years. This was as much of a test of the Conti’s as it was a larger volume tire on the Calfee as I need to find a better tire for the triplet. Not sure what that’ll be yet and I’ll likely give those a try on the Calfee if they fit.

  2. batsnapper says:

    We have had great success and comfort and few flats with 28c Gatorskins on Spinergy rims; Co-Motion Primera. Have also run 28c’s on our Trek T2000. Very satisfied and a good fit for our 370# team. Did I mention few flats?

    • TG says:

      A lot of folks ride the Gatorskins and report good success. I only have the one set because that’s what came on our Triplet and I’ve not done the research on 28mm – 32mm tires needed to find a replacement. Then again, we rarely ride the triplet except at a couple of rallies each year: truly a shame to have such a great bike hanging in the rafters. Anyway, glad to hear you’ve had success with the Gatorskins.

  3. Larry Parker says:

    comparing Gatorskins with performance Vredestein ?? Gatorkins are NOT exactly performance tires. Try a quality tire, like the Gran Bois, or a good Vittoria, or a good Continental. Gatorskins give up performance for protection, so I don’t think you did a very fair test!

    • TG says:

      Probably not the best match-up, on that I’d have to agree and I think I said as much towards the end of my commentary. But, it’s what I had on hand and given how many folks use the Gatorskins in that very size it was rather eye opening. As mentioned in one of my other replies I have not yet taken the time to find a better tire for the triplet which, after today’s ride, I clearly need to do. Of course, if the casing’s OD ends up being a true 28mm or larger we’ll have to move our study over to the Erickson as the Gatorskin 28’s were pretty much at the limit for our Calfee’s frame. Again, I think we’re still good with the Vredestein’s that we have. The challenge will be finding a replacement for those once my stock on hand is consumed as they don’t seem to market the basic Fortezza here in the states anymore: just the tri-comps.

      • msrw says:

        A better tire than the Gatorskin (better being defined as faster, better handling and even greater durability) are Schwabe Marathon Supremes. They’re expensive in the States, but available at less than half the American price at in Germany. We use this tire on our tandem in 700×28 and 700×32.

    • Bryan Boldt says:

      I agree with Larry. Comparing apples to apples is the only way to ensure non-biased feedback.

      Personally, I do not like the ride quality, weight and rolling resistance of the Gatorskins. I understand why people use them – one of the better cheaper tires, and with good puncture resistance, but I much prefer the Conti 4-Season (rolls well, good flat resistance) or Schwalbe Ultremo ZX (best ride quality).

      Regarding your apparent trip speed differences, another missed point was the diff between the higher profile (more aero ?) Deep-V rims vs the low profile and maybe-not-so-aero Dyads. Who knows what the real world drag effect diff is between those two setups?!

      Lastly, perhaps some experimentation of the PSI for the Dyad wheels is in order. A single ride at an arbitrary 100psi, does not provide a good sampling. Based on your feedback, to me it sounds like the psi was too low. Try pumping the tires to the point where the ride begins to feel harsh (maybe a similar feel to your Vredestein setup), then reduce that by 3-5psi to take the edge off.

      Thanks for taking the time to post your findings. Always interesting to read what others are doing.

      • Bryan Boldt says:

        Following my comment above, I found your later blog posts comparing the Schwalbe to the Vreds on the same DeepV wheelset. I missed those posts due to parachuting into this “wide rim” thread via an external link.

        With those tire comparisons already done, perhaps it is now time to toss the 25mm and 28mm Schwalbes onto the Dyads for a revisit of the wide-rim assessment? I believe the 25mm tire is still “allowed” on a 24mm rim… seems to be widely used in the single bike realm per Zipp and HED aero performance data points. At a minimum, it would provide a direct comparison of the larger air volume and profile attainable from increasing the rim size.


  4. Peter Leiss says:

    We run Conti Ultra gatorskins 770c 32 on our Erickson and it runs really nice, of course we have exactly those frost heaved cracked roads that you refer to. I have also an the Grand Bois tires on my single what a revelation those are. Worth trying out I would say but they won’t fit on your Calfee

    • TG says:

      It would be nice if the Grand Bois tires were offered in a blackwall 700cx25 and 700×28 for comparison purposes. However, I believe even the 28 measures 29mm which create an interference issue with the rear brake bridge, so that’s a non-starter for a Calfee test.

  5. Rick Lindstrom says:

    I agree with your assessment. I’ve tried wider tires over the years, and have always returned to a Continental 25C tire at 120psi. Wider tires are comfortable, but subjectively always feel “squashy” to me and don’t have the sharp edge when it comes to handling and performance. We do fast sport riding and appreciate the handling precision and firm ride of the narrower tire.

  6. Nice tandem, really nice. And kudos on exploring the limits of tire/frame clearance. I used to wrench on bikes that had bearing tolerances that were sloppier than the gap between your frame and tire.

  7. We’ve been very happy with our PRO4 Endurance in 25c. Best tires I ever ran on our tandem. Good combination of speed, handling, and flat protection. These are training tires that can be raced. Sidewall says 109 lbs., but I make an exception for these tires and pump to 120 with no problems. We tour on Vittoria Rubino Pro Tech in 28c, and pump to 115. It would be interesting to see how the Gators did at 115, much more comparable to your Vreds at 135. 28*115=3220, 25*135=3375. Or even at 120 – *28=3360. We run our tires a little softer. 25*120=3000, though we pump our touring tires a little higher at 3220, since we carry more weight. We are a 293 lb. team now!

  8. Ed Hass says:

    We have Gatorskin 28’s on our new Co-Motion. However, I like using folding tires. We use Conti 4000 25’s on our road bikes and after several years of using these, I really can’t imagine a better tire. I get the full 4000 miles out of a rear tire and can’t remember my last flat. When the rear wears out, I move the front to the rear and put a new Conti on the front. Thus, 8000 miles per tire.

    At ETR I talked to Mel (Tandems East) about putting the Conti-4000 25’s on our Dyad equipped Co-Motion. He said that’s what he uses. So, I think I’ll switch to those when the Gatorskins wear out.

    • TG says:

      I’ve got two sets of Schwalbe tires coming from the UK (far-more reasonable pricing); one set of 28’s for the triplet and a set of 25’s for the Calfee. I’ll be interested to see how they feel and perform vs our Vredesteins and the Conti’s.

  9. Pingback: New Tires for the Tandems: Schwalbe Ultremo ZX | The TandemGeek's Blog

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